When people hear we are homeschooling, there are a variety of responses we get, ranging from supportive to curious, doubtful to discouraging. What follows the reaction is either an interesting conversation or a complete shutdown of conversation, generally. Recently, though, I had a conversation about our choice to homeschool that went a bit differently than most others.
I think he was trying to be supportive, offering a sort of "Yeah, that's a great idea -- I kinda wish my parents had homeschooled me" response, but it didn't follow that path long. What he actually did was recount frustrating school experiences (implying that we were good to help our child avoid them), particularly emphasizing all the down time in classrooms "while the teacher has to focus all their energy on the one ADHD kid who can't sit still or focus on anything." He was clearly one of the "good kids" in the classroom who had been irked by the "trouble kids" who challenged his sensibilities daily.
Despite my ADD, I was actually one of the teacher's pet types in school, too. And given my profession as a college teacher, this guy probably assumed my kids were the bookish kind as well. There's no way he could have known that I had one of "those kids" he was referring to, that his intention to be supportive could be heard as: "Good riddance! Keep that kid away from everybody else who's trying to learn quietly." That's not at all what he said, yet it's exactly what he meant -- it's the flip side of the very same coin.
While I wanted to be hurt by the comment, the reality is this: I'm glad I'm keeping my kid from having to be pegged daily as one of "those kids" that gets in everybody else's way. I'm glad my kid can learn at his own pace, follow his own interests, absorb information rather than just be exposed to it. I'm glad my kid gets to enjoy learning in a way he'd never be allowed to enjoy it in a traditional classroom, in a way that this guy, ironically, wasn't allowed to enjoy learning either.
For my kid, learning is loud. (Truth be told, for my kid, EVERYthing is loud!) Learning is active; it involves a lot of moving around. Learning is interactive; it requires just as much explaining as it does listening to the explanations of others. Learning is hands-on; it requires even more touching and experimenting with his own two hands then it does looking and listening. Learning is fun!!!
While loud, active, hands-on learning is amazingly powerful, it's disruptive to those who prefer quite, calm, observant learning. Moreover, it is difficult to handle when magnified by many children, rather than one or just a few. Unfortunately, in our effort to maximize efficiency in education, we've prioritized only one kind of learning, and in so doing, have implied that that is the only acceptable way to learn anything at all. But some things just can't be accomplished quietly; some things need to be loud. Some things can't be done passively; active involvement is vital. Some things can't be experienced with only one of our senses; diving in, all in, is key.
So, "supportive of homeschooling guy," you're welcome. In a roundabout way, and for all the opposite reasons you mentioned, I'm as committed as ever to continuing to educate my loud, active, messy, hands-on kid at home, where he can enjoy a learning environment free of the kind of labeling and judgment your comment subtly included.
Thanks for joining me along the journey! I'd love to hear what you want to know ... do you have questions about sensory processing disorder, gluten-free/dairy-free diets, homeschooling, faith, life in general? Send me a note or post a comment and I'll try to write something that addresses your interests and questions!